I’m approaching my one-month anniversary at SMG and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. My name is Janine and I am the newest addition to this fabulous team. Prior to joining SMG, I spent three years in school studying journalism and public relations and another three years working at the City of Burlington as a communications advisor.
I think one of the hardest obstacles I’ve had to deal with while going through this transition from government to agency (other than the hours, LOL) is changing my writing style from formal and comprehensive to friendly and interesting. In government, I often used words like application, initiative, fiscal responsibility and, my personal favorite, critical. So instead of writing, “Here is the document you asked for.” I wrote, “As requested, attached is Word document you required.” Both say the same thing, but are written differently.
Another area of writing that I’ve found difficult to adapt to is letting go of my grammar impulses. You see, I am what Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, calls a “grammar stickler”. But over the past couple weeks, I’ve had to get over my comma-happy phobias and express myself through extreme punctuation, short-forms and emoticons.
Now, I’m not saying that the Internet is full of sentence fragments and split infinitives because it’s not. What I am saying is it’s more important in the social media world to get the right message out than it is to properly punctuate it. And since it is often difficult to interpret written tones like sarcasm and humor, sacrifices must be made.
I’ve explained how writing for social media and writing for government are different; now let me tell you how they are the same. The bottom line is that both are written for mass audiences. Whether it’s a blogger writing his daily post or civil servant developing her council report, their ultimate goal is to get their message across in the clearest way possible and to keep their audience moving from one paragraph to the next. It seems simple, right? Well, it’s not and any writer can tell you that.
Did you know that the average person only reads the first three paragraphs of every news article? And that that same person only scans a headline, looks at the photo and maybe reads a lead paragraph while surfing the Net? So if you are reading this right now that means I’ve successfully captured your attention for the entire post. Go me! But let’s test that theory. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite punctuation mark is and why. Mine is the question mark because I love to ask questions. What’s yours?